Sleep Time “Teas” That Are Not Teas

The use of the word “tea” to apply to just about any plant matter that gets infused, steeped, brewed, decocted, or even stewed in water (hot, cold, or in-between) has long been a bone of contention here at The World Is a Tea Party. An article posted on one of those “article mill” sites (where unvetted authors expound on various topics at great length since they are often paid by the word) brought the matter back to our attention and in such an egregious manner that nothing would suffice but a prompt and detailed refutation of claims made in the article as well as once again re-iterating why “tea” should refer only to those beverages made from leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant family. (In addition, we discovered some scary facts about those “healthy” herbal mixes. And in all fairness, this article is just one of many marching to the same “sleep time tea” drumbeat, and these three products are just a few of what’s out there.)

Issues with the Article

1 – The True Purpose

This was definitely one of those articles by someone whose knowledge of these products and their ingredients came from what he had experienced or overheard in the grocery store aisle yet was being presented as hard facts. His attempt at levity in one of the opening paragraphs, though, was fair warning of what was ahead:

The bad news is that there isn’t much scientific evidence that any tea can really help you get to sleep. The good news is that the lack of evidence may be due to a lack research rather than a lack of effectiveness.

The first sentence makes you think he is writing about Camellia sinensis. The second sentence is a signal for you to stop reading his article and move on to something worthwhile (anyone with even a modicum of scientific training knows that no evidence is not evidence of good evidence, which he seems to be implying). Being a glutton for punishment, I continued.

2 – The Products

The article listed three “tea” products said to help you get to sleep and – here’s the real revelation of the article’s and author’s intent – a “Buy from” button after each one. Tada! This was an article where the author was promoting his sponsored links, meaning he gets paid every time you buy one of these products. Hardly objective.

We show these products here simply for your edification, not as endorsements or promotions. Not one of them contains any tea, despite the moniker slapped on them by the article author and their respective makers. And as you will soon see, a cute box design does not a good product make.

Click on each photo to see ingredients and further comments:

3 – The plants and herbs listed in the article

The author then lists these ingredients, some of which are quite dangerous, especially if you are taking certain prescription medications, as teas to induce sleep. (Ahem…there is not a single tea among them, just more flowers, etc.)

Click on the photos to read the details and see which to avoid:

Do you see even one mention of Camellia sinensis? Neither do we. So we have to ask that the author, Celestial Seasonings, Bigelow, and Yogi Tea find some other term to use for these products – the term “herbal infusion” comes to mind as one possibility. They are definitely trying to ride the coattails of the popularity that tea is now enjoying. But frankly, it is getting a bit tiresome to explain to people who are new to tea that this herbal stuff is something entirely different. And we can’t even begin to count the number of times someone has offered us “tea” and pulled a box of one of these concoctions out of their kitchen cupboard (and blown the dust off the top of the box).

Even worse here is the inclusion of a number of dangerous substances whose ability to induce sleepiness is very slight and whose dangers in some cases are rather serious. Pursuing these and other herbals, flowers, spices, etc., for their health benefits should always be done under a doctor’s advice and supervision. This is especially true if you are taking any other medications or have any conditions. Even tea can be harmful in some situations (studies have shown the high likelihood that drinking tea and when you have cancer is not a good combination – the tea is likely to encourage the cancer cells to grow more vigorously).

Why It Matters

People who grow tea plants (Camellia sinensis) have a lot of knowledge and expertise for the most part. Calling a bunch of other substances by the same name, substances that are often just collected from someone’s yard and could contain all sorts of additions that would be less than appetizing or even healthy such as bird droppings, tends to belittle the knowledge and hard work of those tea gardeners. Those who say “Our language is evolving” or “It’s a cultural thing here in the U.S. to call these things ‘tea’” do a disservice to all tea lovers. They also produce such confusion in the minds of would-be tea drinkers that they drive people away. Ignorance and/or marketing angles seem to be at the root of it all. Time to wise up your vocabulary and to rethink that marketing approach.

It would be great if we could all agree to call only tea by the term “tea” and use “herbal infusion” or “tisane” or whatever for the other stuff. But then, that might hurt sales. Nah, better to get that buck. Sigh!

Bottom Line

If you have trouble sleeping, get up, move around a bit, jog in place, read a book until you feel sleepy, etc. Taking any sleep aid, when not prescribed by your doctor, will in the long run just make things worse. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule. Avoid beverages of any kind at least two hours before bedtime. Be physically active during the day.

Pleasant dreams, all!

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